Ingrid Gattari recently spoke to Garth Tier, managing director of Alice Springs integrator Centre Computing NT, which faces some unusual challenges in one of the world's most isolated citiesARN: How would you describe your business?
Tier: We are information technology consultants. We advise and assist all types of users with their IT infrastructures by attempting to analyse customer requirements and then providing them with an appropriate solution.
Does your business have a special area of focus as an integrator?
We deal with anyone from individuals to companies to government departments. We supply hardware and software and design and build systems and help with upgrading of individual machines to complete networks.
What type of customer do you tend to cater for?
Alice Springs is not big enough to specialise in a particular customer group so we deal with everyone. As far as skills go we concentrate on PCs and network systems. Our major customers are local businesses. There are a lot of government bodies out here so we deal with some of them as well.
What differentiates your company from others in the same field?
We sell POS systems but a lot of the software support comes from out of town. Most of the systems are bought off the shelf or brought in from out of town. We are also the Alice Springs hands-on team for a lot of the hardware and software vendors in other towns. We have partners in Adelaide, Darwin and Melbourne and we'll be their hands, so to speak, and do service work on their behalf.
Which vendors do you partner with and why?
(Local PC assembler) IPEX and POS integrator PACSOFT. We use Microsoft products as well as Compaq, Acer, IBM and Toshiba. We also support Linux.
What do you look for in a vendor partnership?
Price and delivery. Because of our remote location, we need vendors who can deliver quickly. Those that who can respond quickly we stick with.
What new or emerging technologies offer the best opportunities to your business?
Alice Springs is an Internet-savvy town. For us it's the converging of technologies where people can e-mail and communicate as easily as they do with mobile phones. It comes down to bandwidth. Once we get some decent bandwidth either through the cable providers or satellites there are going to be quite a few devices around.
Where does your company excel most in its business methodologies?
I like to think we get close to our customers, understand what their needs and desires are and then provide appropriate solutions, whether they involve us or not. We are able to deal with a wide variety of situations in a creative and efficient way.
What is the key buying motive amongst you customers?
Needing to upgrade systems. There is still a lot of quite ancient technology operating around here. They are now having to upgrade because technology has overtaken them or the GST has forced them to.
What are the major challenges facing your company?
Keeping up with technology. The biggest thing for us is the NT Government's outsourcing program. As a small player we have to get involved with bigger players to make sure the delivery of service remains local.
What are the main inhibitors to your business growth?
Finding quality staff. Part of the problem is that we are so remote.
What piece of advice would you offer to other IT integrators?
Look after the customer and don't concentrate just on the dollar. It will follow if you put the customer first. profileCentre Computing NTBased: Alice SpringsStarted: 1998Staff: 4Turnover: $350,000Growth: 40 per cent in 1999